Lent (or as we used to call it - '”the countdown to Easter”) begins with Ash Wednesday, also an event I have not been present for since Catholic school. It’s not like it required any special exertion on my part back then. We had to go to mass everyday at 7:00 a.m. anyhow, so I was already there in the church. What was another trip down the aisle?
In my hometown parish, the priest always made a cross on our foreheads with his thumb, a big ashy cross. We had a big, dirty badge of honor to wear all day, proof of how pious we were (or how pious you were not, if you didn’t have one). Well, not all day, we were kids and after about 2 or 3 hours of school the cross migrated to other parts of our face, onto our hands and all over our school papers. In Poland, priests tend to make the cross more on top of the head or just sprinkle some ashes in your hair. How, I wonder, can you show off the fact that you’ve been to church with practically no evidence to show for it?
Later that day at school, we had to decide what we would give up for Lent. Of course, some of us tried to be funny and said that we were giving up homework or broccoli. Others were very ambitious declaring to give up television and chocolate and a favorite Barbie and video games. I usually gave up chocolate knowing that on Easter, the chocolate in my Easter basket would taste that much sweeter.
After we all had decided what to give up, our teacher made a list of our names on the side of the chalkboard. She went around the room and asked each one of us what we had decided for sure and then wrote our final decision, what we were giving up for Lent, on the board next to our name. Now everybody knew, and the spying could begin.
Little Johnny had given up sweets for Lent. There it was written on the chalkboard in black and white, but we saw him drinking chocolate milk at lunchtime. Chocolate milk surely must be considered a sweet. What should be done? Report it to the teacher, of course. And little Johnny was called to the front of the classroom. The interrogation could begin.
Teacher: What did you give up for Lent, Johnny?
Johnny: Sweets, ma’am.
T: And whose decision was it to give up sweets for Lent, Johnny?
J: It was mine, ma’am.
T: Do you have something you want to tell us, Johnny?
Of course, he didn’t want to tell us, but most kids usually broke under the pressure and confessed. If not, the interrogation got cranked up a notch.
T: Not eating sweets for Lent…that’s a difficult thing to do, isn’t it, Johnny?
J: Yes, ma’am. I really like sweets.
T: Yes, and Lent is so long and the sweets are so good. You must be a very brave boy, Johnny, to give up something you like so much Johnny.
Johnny is silent, not knowing where the teacher is leading. He senses a trap.
T: I’m sure Jesus would have liked to have the choice to give up sweets, but he didn’t, Johnny. Jesus gave up his life! His life for YOU, Johnny, and for all the rest of us and you cannot even give up sweets for a couple of weeks! His life, Johnny, his life!
No child could stand up to that argument and it usually ending with little Johnny crying, apologizing profusely, promising not to eat sweets, watch television or play video games ever again. Ah, the fond memories of Catholic school.
Giving up sweets is a small sacrifice compared to Jesus giving up of his life, but at least the motive is pure. I recently read an article about Japanese ladies who give up food in order to buy designer label goods. Giving up food to afford designer labels? How much did they eat?
I also read an article which stated that the more children you have, the fewer teeth you have on average. What does that have to do with anything? Connection #1 - that gum bleeding and gum disease is often hastened during pregnancy sometimes causing even healthy teeth to fall out and Connection #2 - that parents with a tight budget forgo dental visits (especially moms) in order to provide something for their children. I have to cop to that one and add ditto for the doctor and the hairdresser.
I have also had students who forgo one meal everyday in order to spend money on English lessons. What can I say to that? Hmmmm…
Money well spent!
PS1 Lent in Polish is called Wielki Post –the Great Fast.
PS2 And it goes to show that there is clip art for every occasion.